Halloween songs, the Christmas Carol’s ugly cousin, are often (and justly) disregarded for almost the entirety of the year. The narrow time frame in which they are celebrated, though, is fast approaching. In honor of this opportunity to revel unashamedly in their gimmicky melodies, I have carefully compiled a multi-genre list of songs, remixes, and covers that, in their own ways, honor the Halloween spirit.
1. Ghostbusters — Ray Parker Jr. (1984)
2. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals (1964)
“Oh mother, tell your children/ Not to do what I have done/ Spend your life in sin and misery in the House of the Rising Sun...” This classic folk-rock hit is speculated to refer to a brothel and its unwilling inhabitants. Also, the organ solo is unreal. Check out the Lauren O’Connell Cover for American Horror Story Coven for a more sinister delivery.
3. Thriller – Michael Jackson (1982)
A Halloween classic from the King of Pop. Disclaimer—save yourself the embarrassment and avoid doing the dance. Listen to the Phillip Phillips Cover for an interesting acoustic rendition from the 2012 American Idol winner.
4. Monster – Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, and Nicki Minaj (2010)
“Monster” hits hard as a brooding and eerie track with sinister undertones and a powerhouse cast, including a Nicki Minaj verse that could make your hair stand on end. It's perfect for hip-hop Halloween: "OK first things first I’ll eat your brains/ Then I’mma start rocking gold teeth and fangs/ Cause that’s what a motherf*&@ing monster do"
5. Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)
This glitzy synth pop track has some potentially Zombie related undertones: “Off with your head/ Dance ‘till you’re dead...” This A-Trak Remix is an excellent choice for your Walsh 8-man festivities.
6. The Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers (1962)
Halloween without the Monster Mash is like Thanksgiving without turkey.
7. Lucifer – Jay Z (2003)
This song was released as part of The Black Album, Jay Z’s eighth and speculated final studio album. Produced by Kanye West, “Lucifer” explores the struggle of confronting death and dealing with inner demons: “Lord forgive him, he got them dark forces in him.”
8. Superstition – Stevie Wonder (1972)
Stevie Wonder sings about the negative effects of superstitious behavior in this funky hit: “When you believe in things that you don't understand/ Then you suffer/ Superstition ain't the way.” The C2C remix adds some additional electro-infused funk.
9. She Wolf – Shakira (2009)
Shakira sings about the untamable animalistic nature of women in her 2009 synthpop hit single. Also, she has some pretty killer belly dancing skills.
10. (Ghost) Riders in the Sky – Johnny Cash (1979)
Originally composed by American songwriter Stan Jones, this western style song was made famous by Johnny Cash. In it, Cash tells the story of a cowboy who has a vision of the Devil’s herd of cattle stampeding across the sky being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys.
11. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)– Jimi Hendrix (1968)
One of Jimi Hendrix’s best known singles, this bluesy, psychedelic, wah-wah infused track is debated to include some of the best guitar riffs and solos of all time.
12. Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys (2011)
Channel your inner werewolf as Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney kill this track from their commercial breakthrough album, Brothers. We like this Jess Greenberg Cover because of her enormous…personality.
13. Disturbia – Rihanna (2007)
This perfectly Halloween-y song comes with an equally creepy music video that seems to blend together elements of Mad Max and The Exorcist.
14. Black Magic Woman – Santana (1970)
Although originally written by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, Santana made “Black Magic Woman” famous with its unique mixture of the original blues sound and Latin rock. The song itself references a Witch/Gypsy and the spell she casts over a man: “That she's a black magic woman/ She's tryin' to make a devil out of me.”
15. Creep – Radiohead (1992)
The debut single from the English alt-rockers that prompted their rise to international fame, "Creep” tells the story of a drunken man who stalks a hottie in order to get her attention—probably not the best game plan for your Saturday night. YouTube channel “PostmodernJukebox” did a great jazzed up version with Haley Reinhart.
16. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones (1968)
Mick Jagger sings from the perspective of the devil in this rock anthem, warning the listener: "If you meet me/ Have some courtesy/ Have some sympathy, and some taste/ Use all your well-learned politesse/ Or I'll lay your soul to waste."
17. The Addams Family Theme – Vic Mizzy (1964)
Another song central to the Halloween experience.
18. Pet Sematary – The Ramones (1989)
Written for Stephen King’s movie, Pet Sematary, this single quickly because one of The Ramones’ biggest hits. The title refers to a cemetery made by the children of a town whose animals died on the highly traveled road, although they misspelled it “pet sematary.” Check out the Plain White T’s cover for the movie Frankenweenie.
19. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult (1976)
Originally interpreted by many as a song about a murder-suicide pact, front man Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser revealed that the song was, in fact, written about eternal love and the inevitability of death.
20. The Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley (1958)
21. I Put a Spell on You – “Screamin'” Jay Hawkins (1956)
22. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (1978)
Although it fails to display elegant lyricism in its howling chorus ("Aaoooooo! Werewolves of London!"), this song is a Halloween gold standard.
23. A Nightmare on my Street – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1987)
This track has an intentionally Halloween themed vibe, as it was produced for inclusion in the film Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. In it, Smith discusses a late night encounter with Freddy Krueger. This is also particularly exciting in light of an impending new Will Smith/DJ Jazzy Jeff album.
24. This is Halloween – Danny Elfman (1993)
Composed for Tim Burton’s 1993 movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, this song is performed by the residents of “Halloween Town.” Check out Marilyn Manson’s cover if you’re feeling particularly edgy.
25. Tribute – Tenacious D (2001)
Jack Black challenges the devil to play the best song ever—what could be more apt for Halloween listening? Also included are appearances from the Foo Fighter’s frontman Dave Grohl as a giant red devil and what appears to be real life Star Power (*you in the Mods). Master Exploder and Beelzeboss are also Halloween appropriate jams.